Your state of mind, while photographing (or as I like to describe it: engaging in a serious photographic process), is important. I’ve talked about this before many times. I’ve described my process and how I photograph in previous posts here.
This has been in my thoughts lately as I often think back about my recent trip to Big Bend. In the few weeks prior to leaving Houston, I was engergized and excited. I had ideas flowing through my head. I felt inspired.
But I feel that it all ended on my first day out there. One major component of that was getting sick. I remember driving south on Hwy 118 to Study Butte/Terlingua and feeling a horrible amount of sinus drainage turn on in the back of my throat.
I’ve always had bad sinus and allergy issues. When I get sinus drainage, it’s usually the first sign that bad times are coming. Congestion, headaches, fever, and fatigue all show up and make my life just miserable enough to keep functioning but operating on a minimal basis. And it always lasts for a couple of weeks.
So I had that going on in Big Bend. When it came time to shoot, my head was filled with thoughts of whether or not to break it off and go see a doctor, what meds could I take to help the situation, and wanting more sleep. Being creative and letting the inspiration come through and engaging in a serious photographic process just seemed to not happen.
The other issue, as I mentioned in the last post, was that I was detached from my usual photographic mindset due to lack of practice. I stayed terribly busy through most of this year on various projects (non-photographic) and had my head in other places for so long that picking up a camera seemed almost foreign.
Then there were the mishaps. Two flat tires, lost camera batteries, and a very close rattlesnake encounter that put a huge dent in my ability to walk about the desert while feeling somewhat safe.
I have a hard time dealing with stress-inducing events. It’s difficult for me to engage in an activity with total focus if other parts of my life are out of sort. To use a phrase by Robert Jackson , if my mind is full of barking dogs, I have a very tough time getting them to quiet down or at least tuning them out for a short period of time.
So what does all this mean at the end of the day when it comes down to my photography?
After looking through all my photos from my recent trip to Big Bend, I’m not all that impressed or satisfied. Sure, I enjoyed my time out there. I’m happy with some of my work.
But I do not feel that I’ve progressed in my art nor have I explored or employed my full creative ability. In fact, when I sit down and really think about it, I’ve let my photography go stale over the last couple of years.
I feel that when I go out and shoot (despite enjoying it) I’m just reacting to scenes somewhat passively and following through old, comfortable territory. I.e. I’m shooting the same type and level of work that I’ve been doing for the last several years. The scenes may change a bit, but my thoughts and processes of engaging those scenes photographically are pretty much the same.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You could argue that if I enjoyed it, then mission accomplished.
But I have, or I feel that I have, a creative energy… maybe energy isn’t quite the right word… my head sometimes seems full of ideas and inspiration that needs to be properly harnessed. I need an output that channels what’s in my head and lets it flow into form by means of visual communication (photos).
I don’t feel that I’m being too hard on myself. But I do feel that I’m somewhat cheating myself if I don’t allow the creativity to come through.
On a practical note, I have been doing several things in the past month that I think will help.
1. Blog more. That’s what you’re currently reading I initially envisioned a post-a-day, but I’m actually happy with activity every 2 or 3 days. And I have no goals for the content other than it shall be something related to photography. Photos, ideas, locations, gear, news, etc.
2. Practice. This is a very easy concept. All it takes is time. Just get out and shoot!
3. Slow down and smell the photos. I rarely look at photography (from others) these days. I need to start doing that again. For example, I let my subscription to Lenswork lapse last year. I always enjoyed that magazine. I’m thinking about re-subscribing.
4. Personal changes. I’ll not go into that here. But I do know of something that I can change in my lifestyle that will make a huge impact on my mindset and creativity. And I’m working on it. Maybe someday I’ll work up the courage to describe the details here.
So if you’re asking yourself why am I writing about all this and going to all this trouble, then the answer is that I want to be happy. I want to enjoy my photography and be satisfied with the results. And I want to effectively express my creativity.
Whether or not anyone likes my photos is no longer important to me. Perhaps that’s a subject for a whole other post